Meandering through the parliamentary process, courtesy of Local Government Minister Rodney Hide, is the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill. Here is Hide’s summary of the legislation, which he sees as providing “better transparency, accountability and financial management of local government.”

You might recall that originally Minister Hide was floating populist elixir like local referenda on councils’ major spending initiatives. He was also planning to legislatively proscribe local councils from straying outside narrowly defined “core” functions. Hide’s National Government superiors have already stripped such “radical” measures from the pending bill.

One feature that remains, and is expected to pass eventually, is a requirement that each local council prepare a non-political, pre-election report on the state of the council’s finances and key initiatives. What supposedly would make the report non-political is that it is to be prepared by the council’s chief executive, with no participation or approval by councillors … and no pictures of them!

Here’s what Hide is aiming for (from his summary):

“Promote debate at local election time by requiring councils to produce a pre-election report. This would draw together existing council information in a readily accessible format, covering:

  • details on the financial performance and position of the council for the three years prior to the election; and
  • financial plans and projects for the next three years.

Pre-election reports will enable voters to consider how well the council has performed to date, promote discussion about the issues facing the council in the future, and make it easier for people to vote for candidates whose priorities align with their own.

The pre-election report will not be an electioneering tool for existing elected members. It will be produced by the chief executive of the council, and cannot include statements by or photographs of councillors.”

Commendably, Napier’s chief executive Neil Taylor has prepared such a report on a voluntary basis, mentioning stormwater management and infrastructure financing (for Te Awa development) as significant issues for the Council. It’s a clearly presented and succinct six pages. You can download it here.

BayBuzz will examine the Napier report more closely in the days ahead, but for now we just want to call upon the other four chief executives in Hawke’s Bay — at the Hastings, Wairoa, CHB and Regional Councils — to follow Neil Taylor’s lead. And maybe there’s merit in the DHB’s chief executive preparing one as well, even though elected DHB board members have far less budget and programmatic discretion.

Tom Belford

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